3G/4G wireless network latency: How did Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile compare in Q4 2015?

It's no secret that a significant amount of attention and interest has been paid to wireless network speeds in the United States and globally. And LTE networks clearly provide faster download speeds than 3G networks.

However, relatively little attention has been paid to 3G and LTE latency speeds--which is notable considering a number of operators have pointed to improved latency as a major reason behind the push to LTE. Indeed, when Verizon announced its LTE deployment in 2010, the operator boasted that "the user plane latency achieved in LTE is approximately 1/2 (one-half) corresponding latency in existing 3G technologies. This provides a direct service advantage for highly immersive and interactive application environments, such as multiplayer gaming and rich multimedia communications."

Latency is defined as the time it takes for a source to send a packet of data to a receiver. Latency is typically measured in milliseconds. The lower the latency (the fewer the milliseconds), the better the network performance.

FierceWireless, with partner OpenSignal, is hoping to shed some light onto the latency issue.

Below you'll find charts showing exactly how the carriers stacked up against each other in the fourth quarter across their different network technologies, from LTE to EV-DO Rev. A to eHRPD (a software solution that allows Verizon and Sprint to use existing CDMA towers to pass data packets over to the LTE network) to HSPAP (part of the HSPA upgrade path) to HSPA. You'll also find the raw data collected by OpenSignal that the charts are based on.

In the below charts, AT&T showed a slight decrease in latency speeds on its HSPA network in the fourth quarter when compared with the operator's results from the third quarter. Sprint and Verizon both showed increases in the latency speeds on their EVDO networks during that period. Sprint remained the carrier with the lowest LTE latency speeds.

And check out OpenSignal's previous reports from the third quarter, the second quarter and the first quarter of this year.

OpenSignal uses a panel of more than 1 million consumer devices to provide real world data on the performance and coverage of mobile networks. For the latency test, OpenSignal runs three ICMP pings on google.com and takes the average. For more information on OpenSignal and its offerings, click here. To subscribe to OpenSignal's newsletter, click here.

Tier 1 U.S. carrier network latency in LTE networks in the fourth quarter of 2015:

Tier 1 U.S. carrier network latency across 3G networks in the fourth quarter of 2015:

Tier 1 U.S. carrier network latency across all high-speed wireless networks in the fourth quarter of 2015:

The raw data (in the fourth quarter of 2015):

Operator

Network Type

Mean Latency (ms)

AT&T

HSPA

144.0871

AT&T

HSPA+

130.2581

AT&T

LTE

85.036316

Sprint

eHRPD

118.2793

Sprint

EVDO A

137.3793

Sprint

LTE

66.062965

T-Mobile

HSPA

114.3755

T-Mobile

HSPA+

106.1252

T-Mobile

LTE

77.446686

Verizon

eHRPD

125.4604

Verizon

EVDO A

126.3606

Verizon

LTE

73.65696

 

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